It’s a crazy system – that’s what you hear over and over about Child Welfare and the Department of Family and Children Services but until you walk through a really unbelievable event you just don’t get how freaking crazy it is. Our last placement was like a trip through one of those fun houses at the fair. Lots of distorted images and crazy moving “solid” ground. I haven’t updated this blog in a while because I needed time to grieve and process just what happened. I’m still wrestling with it and much like Israel/Jacob, I will probably carry this limp with me for the rest of my life to remind me of my time of wrestling. But I wasn’t wrestling with God, he was on my team. This was a wrestling match with the big and might DFCS of the state of Georgia, more specifically Chatham County DFCS. And the wrestling still continues.
Because I respect our last placement and her case and I respect many of the hard working wonderful and caring case managers, CASA volunteers and attorneys we have dealt with I won’t give all the ins and out of our roller coaster ride that lasted 14 days. I will however tell you that Tim and I experienced a complete failing of the system and their procedures and processes, were put in harm’s way as was our “other” foster child, BD, all because a Child Protective Services supervisor wanted to get a case off her rolls and move this “problem child” on to another area of DFCS. It makes me angry, like seeing red and screaming angry that a 20+ year professional would completely fail a child and a foster family and put a potential adoption in jeopardy. But it happened. We are looking at next steps to protect ourselves and BD and the pending adoption.
So Veronica left our home fifteen days ago. It didn’t not go the way I asked DFCS to do it and it didn’t not protect her from further wounding and that makes me angry, sad and pretty depressed. I didn’t get into this to hurt children but that is what happened. Because this girl is so seasoned to the system, I’m sure it is just one more wound on a pile that is so large it boggles the mind. But the fact that I played a big part in this wounding kills me.
I know I am being vague so here’s the Cliff Notes version –
- V came as an emergency one day placement
- We agreed she could stay a few days, until her emergency hearing
- The supervisor mentioned above, transferred her case from Child Protective Services to Foster Care
- this essentially moved her from a temporary placement to a permanent or long term placement in our home
- the supervisor didn’t discuss it with us prior to making this change
- the supervisor didn’t provide the required back ground info so we could make an informed decision
- the supervisor totally ignored DFCS stated procedures
- V’s case was transferred to a brand new, just out of school foster care case manager who was in over her head with my questions and requests for meetings
- V did nothing wrong in our home, was well behaved and we all really liked her
- V’s history that was coming out in bits and pieces was really bad and pretty frightening
- I heard about homes being shut down and court rooms cleared because of our teenager
- We were warned by multiple sources to watch our backs and protect our reputations by developing our own safety plan
- DFCS would not meet with us, would not provide support and ignored my request that V be in counseling
- We requested V be moved immediately but said we would work with DFCS for a smooth transition
- After no response to our request we showed up at DFCS office to meet with someone to plan the transition to a new home, they stonewalled and refused to meet with us.
- We cornered the Director of Chatham DFCS at the courthouse (we were there for BD’s hearing)
- He told Tim V was our problem until she was arrested or ran away.
- The next day V ran away from school and thus became DFCS’s problem once again
Just reading over this makes me mad all over again. And this broke us. We informed DFCS that we will not take any more placements, emergency or otherwise until BD’s case is finalized. We cannot trust DFCS to follow their procedures, abide by their rules or ensure the safety of the little 14 month old filling up our home. The director’s response when we both vocalized our concern about BD’s case and the impact a potential false allegation of abuse from V was, “you all are good people.” You would be cleared in the investigation and BD would (most likely) be returned to your home afterwards. My mouth was hanging open to hear this man say it would be okay for them to remove BD from our home, break the bond that we have formed with each other. And yet for them it would be no problem, it is just a case not a happy, beautiful, funny little girl we know and love. So we aren’t willing to take that kind of risk again.
We will foster in the future but we will wait until BD’s case is finalized and then we will work through a third party agency and only take children her age or younger. I wanted to be the family that could love the unlovable but right now, we can’t. I didn’t realize how much we have to lose until it was all in jeopardy.
The bitter sweet good news is that at the court hearing where we cornered the DFCS county director, BD’s bio father relinquished his rights as her parent. At the end of this month, November, if her mother does not call her case manager or otherwise show up, it will be six months since she attempted to work her case plan or see her child. The state will then consider that she has abandoned her child and will terminate her parental rights. BD’s case will then move to adoption. Our next case hearing is in January. We should know by then if we are going to be her forever Momma and Daddy. Lots of ifs but we are heading into the final leg of this race.
BD is doing amazing. She is such a happy baby and so freaking cute it is just ridiculous. I took her to Chick-Fil-A the other night because Momma was tired and playing single parent for the evening. She had her first nugget and waffle fries and made a dozen new friends but the weirdest thing happened. Three different little boys from age 3 – 7ish came up and kept touching her. Not just a pat on the head, but holding both her arms and not letting go kind of touching. She was a little freaked out, I was a little freaked out and the various parents were pretty embarrassed their kids acted this way. I asked Tim if this was a sign of things to come. This pretty girl I’m sure is going to be getting a lot of attention from the boys; I was hoping we had a decade and a half to wait for that but maybe not….
Through this past month I have grown. Maybe not in the ways I would have liked but still growth. Tim and I have certainly grown weary, we’ve grown jaded, we’ve grown guarded but we have also grown with love, with appreciation for each other’s strength and with gratitude for help from people who put their careers on the line to watch out for our little family and try to help us protect it. God has our back. We do not doubt that for one second.
Psalm 3:3 But you, Lord, are a shield around me, my glory, the One who lifts my head high.